Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory


  • Recently, a massive radio telescope at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory — one of the world’s largest — collapsed on after sustaining severe damage, following 57 years of astronomical discoveries.

About Arecibo Telescope

  • Also known as the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), was an observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico owned by the US National Science Foundation (NSF).
  • It was the world’s largest single-aperture telescope for 53 years, surpassed in July 2016 by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China.
  • The second-largest single-dish radio telescope in the world, it had withstood many hurricanes and earthquakes since it was first built in 1963.

Its Findings and Discoveries

  • Being the most powerful radar, scientists employed Arecibo to observe planets, asteroids and the ionosphere.
  • It made several discoveries over the decades, including finding prebiotic molecules in distant galaxies, the first exoplanets, and the first millisecond pulsar.
  • In 1967, Arecibo was able to discover that the planet Mercury rotates in 59 days and not 88 days as had been originally thought.
  • In the following decades, it also served as a hub in the search for extraterrestrial life, and would look for radio signals from alien civilizations.
  • In 1993, scientists Russell Hulse and Joseph Taylor were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on the observatory in monitoring a binary pulsar.
  • It provided a strict test of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and the first evidence for the existence of gravitational waves.

Source: The Hindu

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